After 20 years of annual Intel Developer Forum conferences around the world, Intel said it is dropping the large-scale event and replacing it with smaller events that cover specific technology markets, including 5G, AI, autonomous driving and more.
Intel announced the move on its website on April 17 as it thanked past attendees for their participation and unveiled the retirement of the IDF conferences. IDF 2017 was scheduled to be held in San Francisco before it was cancelled.
Agnes Kwan, an Intel spokeswoman, told ITPro that the IDF conferences continued to be successful for the company, but that the move is being made as Intel transforms itself from a PC-centric company into a data-centric operation. Last year the event had 6,000 attendees from around the world. Past IDF events had been held in San Jose and Palm Springs, as well as in China, Taiwan and in Moscow.
"Attendance hasn't been dropping and it was a very successful event for us for the past 20 years," said Kwan. "It has served its purpose."
A major motivation for the changes is that Intel is getting involved in more technologies beyond PCs, such as artificial intelligence, 5G and autonomous driving and this requires a change in the events the company holds, she said. "The scope of our business has become so diverse that we need to re-evaluate our portfolio of events," said Kwan. "We will retire IDF but move to different, smaller events to get our messages across and reach our audiences."
As part of this strategy, Intel recently held a targeted Technology and Manufacturing Day in San Francisco in March where the company talked about their silicon process technology, and an AI event several months ago which focused on the topic with a targeted audience, according to Kwan.
"We're also going to other industry events that are to us, including the recent Los Angeles Auto Show," and another executive spoke at the SXSW event in March, she said. "We're going to new events which are targeting the new technologies Intel is getting into. Rather than having a big flagship event, we are now looking at new venues to target."
Several IT analysts told ITPro they think that Intel's move makes sense, while another analyst said he thinks it is a mistake.
"As Intel has become a far broader and more diversified organization, fitting all its business concerns into a single tent or general purpose vision has become increasingly problematic," said Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT. "At the same time, the developers and developer communities IDF was designed for have also evolved. Crafting more targeted events and engagements is a better approach for both Intel and its developer partners."
Intel and the overall technology industry are hugely different today than when IDF launched back in 1996, continued King. "It's also important to acknowledge that vendors mainly sponsor and participate in events that meet their strategic needs, and depart if or when those situations change. Apple leaving MacWorld in 2011 is a good example, as was Microsoft's decision to stop participating in CES keynotes after 2012."
At the same time, "there's still a place for large scale, monolithic IT conferences like Salesforce's Dreamforce and Oracle's OpenWorld, but those companies' go-to-market strategies and customer engagements are far narrower than Intel's," said King.
Rob Enderle, principal analyst at Enderle Group, agreed. "With the emergence of virtualization, the need to focus directly on developers for a chip maker was substantially reduced," said Enderle. "Given no firm has unlimited resources and IDF was expensive in both funds and man hours, they are focusing instead on emerging markets like AI, drones, and autonomous markets as well as increasing their demand generation efforts for existing products instead."
Enderle said he believes that "it is the end of an era for a lot of events like this" because they are more cost-effective ways to provide customers with information on products nowadays. "I think Intel has realized they need to step up and focus a bit more on the future than on entrenched practices if they are to benefit from the opportunities that are to come so they aren't dragged down by the past."
Another analyst, however, Dan Olds of Gabriel Consulting Group, told ITPro he thinks Intel is making a bad move by dropping its big annual event.
"IDF was the one event a year where Intel could trot out all this stuff and have the attention of the world on them," said Olds, who attended several of the conferences over the years. "It was the big tent event for them. As an analyst, you heard so much about it and it gave Intel a chance to set their agenda for the coming year."
By changing its focus instead to smaller, targeted events in various locations Intel is "going to scuttle a lot of the impact they had with IDF," said Olds. "I imagine with several smaller events that not as many people will be able to get to them and they won't have the same impact."
Attendees were always willing to carve out time to attend the event in the past, he added, but Intel is making that tougher. "I think it's always a mistake to give up a big platform like IDF, particularly for no compelling reason. It's not like it was going down in attendance and not like customers didn't want to go."
Interestingly, in March Intel hired a new chief strategy officer, Aicha S. Evans, who is responsible for helping the company make its transformation from its historic background as a PC-centric company into a data-centric company, according to a recent announcement. Evans previously worked as an Intel senior vice president and was responsible for wireless communications for the past nine years. She joined Intel in 2006.
It will interesting to watch how Evans works to make more transforming changes in the future.